Capturing the Friedmans dir. by

15 July 2004

Rated :

Starring the family as themselves.

This is a documentary about a family, maybe a little on the eccentric side, but seeming quite normal nontheless and what happens when the father is discovered to be a paedophile.
He (Arnold) is first discovered by the customs as an improter of child pornography, and in a search of the house more material is found. Arnold had been a respected, well-liked teacher, and although retired when the magazines were found he still gave computer classes in his house. Because of this, the police thought the children who attended may have been at risk. After a month of interviewing the children the police returned to the Friedman house and arrested Arnold and Jesse, the youngest son (18) on charges of paedophilia.

Because Arnold had a love of making movies, and this love was passed on to his three sons, much of what his family went through is recorded, and it shows a very dysfunctional family indeed. One of the things that really stands out in this doc is how much David seems to hate his mother. He constantly blames her, nothing seems to have been his father’s fault at all. She in turn is almost unrelentingly pessimistic in her outlook, or maybe it is just practicality that comes across as though she has given up.

But the real strength of this film lies in the absence of any judgement. The audience is constantly being forced to reconsider a previous opinion. An in the end the only real truth that comes out is that how can any of us have the full story.

It also forces the audience to question themselves, and how they react.
There is a certain argument that says that people should be able to look at any material they want, including paedophilic images. After all they are only images. Of course they aren’t only anything, they could be images of an abused child but if they are entirely fabricated who does it harm? Does it help the paedophile control their desires, or increase the likely-hood of them attacking a child. In a way I’ll admit to feeling a certain amount of sympathy to men like Arnold Friedman, he knew what he felt and desired was wrong, but couldn’t help having those emotions. Do they deserve treatment or punishment? If someone has those feelings what do they do? Arnold went to a psychiatrist, worried that he would abuse his on children. He was told not to worry, it was under control!

It is almost universally regarded with horror, but this film forces us to look past the hysteria and the fear, to challenge our perceptions and try to think about things rationally. Easier perhaps when it is simply on the screen and not next door to you.


Jesse’s site | IMDb | Ruthless reviews | Article in The Guardian

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